Stress is not simply a problem for adults. The data shows children are experiencing increasing levels of stress and anxiety. Beyond the impact of stress on a child’s mood, social interactions, and focus, stress can also have a physical health impact on your child’s teeth and gums.

Let’s explore the damage stress can cause to your child’s developing oral health and highlight several tips for relieving stress and anxiety in the long term.

The Link Between Stress and Oral Health

The physical oral health symptoms of stress occur in children of all ages and health backgrounds. One of the primary factors behind this physical link is that stress reduces the immune system response, allowing bacteria to thrive and leading to several oral health effects.

A child experiencing high levels of stress may also experience the following oral health issues:

Dry Mouth

A recent study published by the Journal of Dental Research found stress can slow down the mechanism that produces saliva. Saliva is crucial for washing away food debris and damaging bacteria. Saliva also contains beneficial minerals that support healthy enamel, which protects your child’s teeth as they develop. With stress causing dry mouth, your child is more likely to experience cavities and tooth decay due to the lower saliva levels.

Dietary Changes

Older children and teenagers are more likely to choose unhealthy dietary options under stress.

A recent European study found children with a high level of the stress hormone cortisol are more likely to have unhealthy eating habits. High levels of sugar are known to cause significant damage to developing teeth and gums.

Thumb Sucking

It’s common for young children experiencing increased levels of stress to suck their thumbs. Thumb sucking provides comfort. But pressure from the thumb inside the mouth may cause your child to develop misaligned teeth and jaw bones as kids start to develop permanent teeth.

Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching

The latest research shows stress is one of the leading causes of bruxism, or teeth grinding, in children. Changes in their environment, pressure at school, and social changes can cause children to grind their teeth, often while they sleep.

Teeth grinding has significant repercussions on a child’s oral health, potentially wearing down the enamel and causing children to chip the tooth in cases of excessive grinding.

What Steps Can I Take to Help Relieve My Child’s Stress?

While stress can profoundly impact children, there are active steps you can take if you believe your child is experiencing high stress levels. Consider the following steps to help your child find healthy ways to relieve their stress:

Schedule an Appointment with a Mental Health Professional

The first step in helping children manage stress is to identify the root causes of the problem. Whether the stress is related to their school work or social environment, a mental health professional can offer the ideal foundation for the treatment phase.

Check-In With Your Child When They Act Out

A child acting out of character is a clear sign they are experiencing rising stress. Take a moment to check in with them when you notice outbursts or sudden changes in their communication with you. Identifying these patterns at their earliest stages can help preempt potential oral health damage.

Book an Oral Health Exam to Check for Potential Tooth and Gum Damage

Your pediatric dentist can be a crucial advocate for your child in helping manage their oral health symptoms. They can complete digital X-rays to check for structural damage to your child’s teeth.

Your pediatric dentist can then suggest treatment options such as fillings and crowns to repair any damage. The specialist will also offer guidance on protective treatment options, such as dental sealants, which can help offer protection against decay as your child grows.

Glow Pediatric Dentistry: Leaders in Pediatric Dental Care

By identifying the triggers behind your child’s stress and coordinating stress relief with treatment from your pediatric dentist, you can help your child restore their ideal oral health. The team at Glow Pediatric Dentistry has experience in helping children to manage stress and anxiety. We thrive by communicating with children of all ages at their level of knowledge, providing a supportive treatment environment in which children can thrive.

If you have any concerns about potential stress-related oral health damage impacting your child, call our offices in either LangleyRichmond, or Abbotsford to discuss the next treatment step.